Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Medical and Health Sciences

First Supervisor

Dr Jeremy M. Sheppard

Second Supervisor

Associate Professor Chris R. Abbiss


Studies examining the physical demands of surfing, the physiological characteristics of surfers, training techniques and various indices important to surfing performance are limited and characterised by methodological discrepancies. This thesis consists of five studies to assess the competitive requirements, test specific repeat sprint fitness and the trainability of sprint paddling in surfers.

Initially an understanding of surfing movement patterns and a determination of the reliability and validity of custom-made GPS units was established (SurfTraX, Gold Coast, Australia) (Study 1: The validity and inter-unit reliability of custom-made SurfTraX GPS units and use during surfing). Durations, intensities, external loads and velocity of movements during competitive surfing were then examined (Study 2: Workloads of competitive surfing: A performance analysis of three surfing competitions). During competition surfers paddle 44% of the total time and have a significantly higher work to rest ratio at a beach-break compared to point-breaks. Further, point-breaks involve longer continuous durations of paddling, with significantly longer rides, compared to the beachbreak. Data from Study 2 aided in forming the rationale for developing and determining the reliability of a novel repeat sprint paddle test (RSPT) (Study 3: The repeat-sprint paddle test: A protocol for measuring surfing athletes’ sprint paddle performance). With lacking appropriate and valid testing protocols for evaluating physiological qualities in surfing athletes, Study 3 determined that the measurements of RSPT total time, best 15m time, and peak velocity from recreational and competitive surfers were reliable between days. Additionally, the smallest worthwhile change ranged from 0.02 to 2.7 s, demonstrating high sensitivity in detecting performance changes. After determining the reliability of the RSPT, this study investigated the durations that adolescent competitive surfers spend surfing and physically training.

In the pilot study (Study 4: Tracking 6 Weeks of Training/Surfing Sessions of Adolescent Competitive Surfers: Just what are these young surfers up to?) adolescent surfers provided details on the amount of time spent free surfing, being coached, competing, strength training, conditioning and undertaking balance work over six weeks. It was found that adolescent surfers spent 14 more hours surfing than doing any form of land-based training, including no form of specific paddle training. Following the conclusions of Study 4, Study 5 examined the effectiveness of implementing structured training on the paddling abilities of adolescent surfers (Study 5: Five weeks of sprint and high intensity interval training improves paddling performance in adolescent surfers). It was discovered that high intensity interval training (HIT) (30 s sprint paddling) decreased athletes 400m endurance paddle time, and sprint interval training (SIT) (10 s sprint paddling) decreased the total RSPT time. Such training can be implemented to improve aerobic and repeat sprint paddle ability, which are key aspects of the sport. Additionally, the 400m paddle and RSPT can possibly discriminate between aerobic and anaerobic training adaptations, with aerobic gains likely from HIT and anaerobic gains likely from SIT.

Overall, this thesis established greater in-depth information on competitive surfing, an innovative and reliable test to assess repeat sprint ability, and two training methods that produced beneficial sprint and endurance paddle improvements.

Access Note

Access to Chapters 2, 3, 5, 6, 8 & 9 of this thesis is not available.